News feature, October 9, 2007
A Revolution for Australian track cycling?
The Revolution track racing concept was launched in Australia for the first time yesterday, after having run five successful seasons in Great Britain. Cyclingnews' Mal Sawford reveals the foundation and the people behind Revolution's Australian launch.
Melbourne has long been considered as the home of many major sporting events in Australia, with huge crowds regularly attending the Formula One Grand Prix, Moto GP, Australian Open Tennis and the AFL Grand Final. Melbourne's sport-mad crowds have also flocked to big time track cycling events, with sell-out crowds at all sessions of the 2004 UCI Track World Championships and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Attendances at major domestic track cycling events have unfortunately been in something of a decline in recent years, despite the best efforts of long term promoter Cyclists International. Sponsorship and prize money have also been falling in real terms and in an inevitable downwards spiral, the top names in Australian track cycling have been harder and harder to attract to events like the Austral Wheelrace.
The peak body of competitive cycling in Victoria, CycleSport Victoria (CSV), called for tenders to promote its four major track carnivals and a new company came together to take up the challenge. CotterPin was founded in April 2007 by Harry Hart and Clint McDonell and won the tender to promote CSV's events for both the 2007/08 and 2008/09 track seasons.
Hart has a strong background in television sports production, having produced thousands of hours of live and recorded sports programming over two Olympic Games and helped launch OptusVision's four sports channels. McDonell, an active A Grade club cyclist with a second place finish in the 2007 Austral under his belt, has a background in concert, event and artist management before moving into gymnasium and health club management arena.
CotterPin licensed the successful Revolution concept, initially created by Face Partnership and the Manchester Velodrome in 2003. The Revolution series at the Manchester Velodrome revitalized track cycling in the United Kingdom and is currently in its fifth season. To date, every Revolution has seen a full house attracted by the promise of world and Olympic Champions presented in a slick, modern style, fast racing and an electric atmosphere providing fantastic entertainment for both the cycling fanatic and non-cycling fans alike.
Joining Hart and McDonell at CotterPin are David McKenzie and his wife Susan Stewart. 'Macca' is well known to Australian cycling fans as a former Australian Road Champion, Cyclist of the Year and Giro d'Italia stage winner. Only recently retired from the professional scene, McKenzie's ongoing relationships with current riders, coaches and administrators should prove invaluable in ensuring CotterPin can contract the elite riders the Revolution format promises.
Stewart is equally well known in cycling administration, having held a variety of roles including Event Coordinator for the Herald Sun Tour, and as Executive Officer of CSV. She is perhaps best known as the manager of the European based iTeam Nova professional squad.
Providing a direct link to the UK Revolution is La-Ra Hinkeldeyn, who spent 18 months working with Face Partnership. In addition to working actively on hospitality management at Smithfield Nocturne and Revolution, she assisted with the day-to-day management of Saunier Duval's David Millar during his comeback to the sport after a two year doping suspension.
CotterPin formally launched its event schedule for season 07/08 to the media at Melbourne's second velodrome at the Darebin International Sports Centre (DISC) and the new promoters quickly showed the benefits of their media connections with a number of live crosses to popular breakfast television program Today. Two of the stars of Revolution 1, Ryan Bayley and Anna Meares, were on the track training with leading Victorian track coach Hilton Clarke at 7 AM and Nine Network viewers were treated to a 80 km/h motorpaced flying 200 metre effort by Bayley (on an 84" gear for the techies) and a track stand demonstration by Meares before a three-way match sprint, featuring the two Olympic champions and Today reporter Steven Jacobs…on 12 inch wheeled track bikes!
While the 'match sprint' was obviously a bit of fun, there was still plenty of the famed Bayley leg speed on display as he took the win by a huge margin. Joining Bayley and Meares at the much more civilized time of 10am for the media launch proper were two recently retired stars of Six Day track cycling and Sydney Olympics medallists - Scott McGrory and Matt Gilmore.
Hart began his address with the oft-quoted "cycling is the new golf", and spoke of his team's commitment to returning track cycling to its former glory. "Track cycling was a huge part of Melbourne's sporting landscape back in the '40s and '50s, when full-houses used to attend the famous outdoor wooden track at Olympic Park," noted Hart. "We are excited to introduce the Revolution concept which has proven such a success in the UK as well as present events like the Austral that preserve the heritage of the sport." He alluded to the more recent rivalries between Stephen Pate and Gary Neiwand and promised, "elite racing, stars, entertainment, lights and music - a great night out".
With years of experience in front of crowds of thousands at the Six Day track racing events in Europe, both McGrory and Gilmore were enthusiastic that the Revolution series would succeed. Gilmore, who has recently begun working with the cream of Tasmania's junior riders, is looking forward to "the dynamic, finals style racing" and hopes that the series will provide a new pathway for young riders to reach the elite ranks.
"Track is an incredible arena to promote the sport (of cycling)," McGrory added, echoing Gilmore's sentiments. "This is a fantastic opportunity to bring the sport forward in Australia."
Neither Bayley nor Meares have experienced Revolution in the UK, but were clearly excited to get on board the local version. Bayley revealed his training ahead of the Beijing Olympics is "going well, my times are good and I'm getting strong in the gym. I'm definitely hoping for a few wins here in Revolution 1 - if I don't, I'll be very disappointed!"
Meares counts Melbourne as a happy hunting ground. "I haven't raced in Melbourne apart from the Worlds and Comm Games and I left both with great results, so I'm hoping for a couple more," she said. "I love the Melbournian crowds - 5000 at the Comm Games and the Worlds, and the chance to compete in front of my family, friends and sponsors."
With the IOC's axing of the 500 metre time trial from the Olympic program, Meares is re-focusing on the sprint and Keirin events. "It will be a great hit out before the World Cups, and will let us see just where we are in our preparations for Beijing," she added.
Event Program 2007/2008
Revolution 1 - Saturday November 24, Vodafone Arena
Revolution 2 - Wednesday December 19, Vodafone Arena
The Inaugural Junior Austral - Saturday February 23, DISC
The 110th Austral Wheelrace - Saturday March 15, Vodafone Arena
With two of the world's fastest sprinters in Bayley and Meares confirmed as starters for Revolution 1, the obvious question was who will join them? "It's looking like the sprint and keirin at Revolution 1 will resemble a world cup level event for depth and quality," said McKenzie, Cotter Pin's Competition Director. Cyclingnews twisted Macca'a arm to discover that Canadian track star Gina Grain is confirmed for both Revolution 1 and 2 and that with the support of all Australian national and state coaches, it is expected that the entire Australian sprint squad will be in action. More confirmed starters are expected to be announced in coming days.
Some 18 male sprinters will race in both sprint derbys and the keirin. The three sprint winners will earn byes into the Keirin final, while the rest will tackle traditional keirin heats to earn their way through. Spectators can expect to see the sprint stars in action up to four times on the night, with McKenzie acknowledging coaches concerns that four 100 percent sprints was the maximum he could expect.
On the endurance side, McKenzie will contract 24 riders, to compete as 12 two man teams. For the men, the teams will contest Madison and team elimination. On the women's side, McKenzie is targeting 10 sprinters, each to race three times and between 10 and 15 enduros to race both scratch and points races. The full program is expected to run at around three and a half hours. "It will be action packed," said McDonell. "No interval, we want to give people a great show and the feeling that if they leave their seat, they'll miss something good."
Joining the Elite stars will be what Revolution calls the 'Future Stars'. An invitation-only series for riders under the age of 18 at May 1, 2008 to be held at both Revolution events and the Austral Carnival will test the youngsters in the kilo, scratch and elimination races.
The flying million
Sure to attract the attention of not just Australia's leading sprinters is CotterPin's intention to offer a $1,000,000 prize to the first rider to break the magical 10 second barrier for a flying 200 metre time trial.
"It's an insurable risk," says McDonell. Less than a handful of the world's best sprinters have broken 10 seconds, with the current world record of 9.772 set by Dutch superstar Theo Bos at the Moscow World Cup in December 2006. The best times recorded at Vodafone to date are those of Scotland's Ross Edgar, who holds the local record at 10.294 with his qualifying ride at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and Matthias John, who qualified fastest at the 2004 Worlds racing for Germany with his time of 10.322.
If sponsors and insurance companies come to the party, the Flying Million promises to add yet another level of interest to the cycling Revolution.